I've been having trouble uploading photos to both the Blogger website and to my Facebook account, which is exceedingly frustrating because computer time is often better spent researching the next move, not fighting the system in attempt to upload photos 6 times before they actually go through. This post will have no photos because its such a frustrating endeavor.
I'm not sure I've posted much on China, which is probably a good thing. My overwhelming first impression was not a super-positive one, though the place has grown on me over time. Beijing has a lot of really neat things to see (Olympic grounds, Tian anmen Square, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Great Wall, etc.) but the pollution and the crowds made my time there relatively frustrating. Its also really expensive! David and I were having to pull money out of the ATM every other day and were "going through money like water." I was determined not to have a negative experience and was doing my best to relax and enjoy my time there but it was difficult because I started to feel run-down.
My diet over the course of our 6 days in Beijing consisted largely of chips, Snickers, beer and water. The restaurant scene there charges Western prices and the places we could afford were often kinda scary. We'd venture out in search of food and walk for an hour before we caved and went inside a restaurant we thought we could stomach. We often ate "safe" things like Subway and Pizza Hut. I'm strongly opposed to Western fall-backs like this, but I was starving and tired of living off junk food. My eating habits got so bad that I ended up with a severe headache.
I was really relieved when we left Beijing and arrived in Xian. We came here with the intent to see the Terra Cotta Warriors, but having been here 2 full days, we've yet to take the bus 45 minutes to see them. I got so distracted by the abundance of amazing food here that I all but forgot about anything else. We were recruited by one of those annoying solicitors at the train station to stay in her hostel. We held out for a while, hoping she'd leave us alone while we poured over our books, trying to figure out if we actually wanted to continue on to Shanghai, as was the original plan, or scrap that and start making our way south to Laos to kill time until our Vietnamese visas become valid on the 22nd.
The hostel ended up being around the corner from some amazing local fare and I've eaten handmade buckwheat noodles for 2 days now and am hoping for a 3rd! We've had really good luck with street food too, trying some grilled squid a few nights ago, which was awesome! Only had one bad meal, which we got by walking into a place that had no English-speakers, no one else in the restaurant eating (so we could point and ask for the same thing) and no real photos of anything. We pointed to a picture on the wall and, for what it was worth, should have just closed our eyes and picked something at random on the menu, because what we ended up with was a plate of pig fat and bones with celery. At least the side of rice and the celery were edible....
So I've been happy to spend a few extra days in Xian and take our time figuring out the next step. It seems we're skipping Shanghai entirely in favor of heading south to Chengdu on our way to Laos. There's a big Buddha statue in Chengdu to see and some trekking we may do in the Yunnan province for a few days before crossing the border into Northern Laos. We may have to try to rent some motorcycles for a day or two because the landscape is supposed to be amazing! Nothing is certain except we're on the move again! I'm behind on blogging, I know. When we get situated somewhere again with Internet access, I'll make a point to sit down and blog about several cultural observations and add photos, regardless of how frustrating it could be.